Background: Visceral white adipose tissue (WAT) hypertrophy, adipokine production, inflammation and fibrosis are strongly associated with obesity, but the time-course of these changes in-vivo are not fully understood. Therefore, the aim of this study was to establish the time-course of changes in adipocyte morphology, adipokines and the global transcriptional landscape in visceral WAT during the development of diet-induced obesity.
Results: C57BL/6 J mice were fed a high-fat diet (HFD) or normal diet (ND) and sacrificed at 8 time-points over 24 weeks. Excessive fat accumulation was evident in visceral WAT depots (Epidydimal, Perirenal, Retroperitoneum, Mesentery) after 2-4 weeks. Fibrillar collagen accumulation was evident in epidydimal adipocytes at 24 weeks. Plasma adipokines, leptin, resistin and adipsin, increased early and time-dependently, while adiponectin decreased late after 20 weeks. Only plasma leptin and adiponectin levels were associated with their respective mRNA levels in visceral WAT. Time-course microarrays revealed early and sustained activation of the immune transcriptome in epididymal and mesenteric depots. Up-regulated inflammatory genes included pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines (Tnf, Il1rn, Saa3, Emr1, Adam8, Itgam, Ccl2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9) and their upstream signalling pathway genes (multiple Toll-like receptors, Irf5 and Cd14). Early changes also occurred in fibrosis, extracellular matrix, collagen and cathepsin related-genes, but histological fibrosis was only visible in the later stages.
Conclusions: In diet-induced obesity, early activation of TLR-mediated inflammatory signalling cascades by CD antigen genes, leads to increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, resulting in chronic low-grade inflammation. Early changes in collagen genes may trigger the accumulation of ECM components, promoting fibrosis in the later stages of diet-induced obesity. New therapeutic approaches targeting visceral adipose tissue genes altered early by HFD feeding may help ameliorate the deleterious effects of diet-induced obesity.